7 Foods to Avoid With COPD

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Susan Fishman, APC, CRC on October 7, 2021
  • Senior man enjoying food with grandson and son
    Eat Well, Breathe Better
    We all need food to fuel our body’s activities, and that includes breathing. When you’re living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a common lung disease that makes it hard to breathe, you need more energy to breathe than most. A good diet can help because it can keep you at an ideal weight to support your breathing and help keep COPD symptoms from getting worse. Steering clear of the foods that can deplete your energy and increase your symptoms will help you, and your loved ones, breathe a little easier.
  • can of soup next to can opener
    1. Sodium (or Salt)
    Getting too much salt in your diet can be hard on your lungs because it causes you to retain fluids, which may increase blood pressure and lead to shortness of breath. Ask your doctor about how much sodium you should have in your diet. Pay attention to food labels and read the sodium content. In general, you should look for products with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving. You may also want to talk to a registered dietitian or nutritionist about other ways to cut your sodium intake, such as avoiding canned soups and using spices and herbs in lieu of salt to season your food.
  • group of broccoli
    2. Gassy “B” Foods
    Foods that tend to give us that bloated, gassy feeling are especially not a friend to those with COPD. A full or bloated stomach can make breathing uncomfortable. You may have your own gassy trouble-makers, but some common culprits are the “B” foods — broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beans and beer. Onions, cabbage, sauerkraut and fried and fatty foods also pose problems for people. So pass on the gas-makers, but be sure to replace the vegetables with others that are easier to digest and give your body the nutrients it needs.
  • Coke
    3. Soda
    Soda may be hard for some people to give up, but for those with COPD, it can make a big difference in their breathing. Soda is infused with carbon dioxide, which leads to belly gas and bloating, making breathing more of a chore. Soda also has a high sugar content, and sugar — even sugar substitutes — has been shown to cause inflammation, which can negatively impact your breathing. The “empty” calories of soda may contribute to obesity, which can also make breathing difficult.
  • Cup of coffee
    4. Caffeine
    Caffeine may interfere with some of your COPD medicines, so you may need to avoid foods with a high caffeine content, such as chocolate, coffee, tea and sodas. Water is one of the best things you can drink as it will help keep mucus thin and easier to cough up. Try to drink at least 6 to 8 eight-ounce glasses of non-caffeinated beverages each day.
  • stack-of-oat-cookies
    5. Simple Carbohydrates
    Some people equate carbohydrates with energy, but the truth is, simple carbohydrates, such as cookies, cakes and pies, cause you to hold in too much carbon dioxide. This often leads to that ultimate energy dip we get after eating these kinds of sweets, and can leave you feeling tired and weak. Try to avoid, or at least cut back, on these goodies to allow your body more energy for the work of breathing.
  • Cheese and Crackers
    6. Lactose
    Lactose, which is found in dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese — even fat-free sherbets — can cause bloating, making breathing harder for people with COPD. But since dairy products are the main source of calcium, it’s important to eat other foods that allow you to get your recommended daily calcium intake. Ask your doctor or nutritionist about how much calcium you need, as well as Vitamin D, which is what allows the body to absorb calcium. He or she can recommend the best foods to meet your needs.
  • Burger and fries
    7. High-calorie foods
    Since breathing requires more energy for people with COPD, it’s important to maintain a healthy body weight. If you’re overweight, your heart and lungs have to work harder, and the extra weight may require more oxygen. Try to avoid high-calorie foods, such as meats, baked goods, sodas and fried and fatty foods. But be sure to balance this with healthy fats and proteins so you don’t lose too much weight. Being underweight may leave you feeling weak and tired and more prone to infection. Ask your doctor or dietitian what your ideal weight should be and how many calories you should consume per day.
Foods to Avoid With COPD | COPD Diet

About The Author

Susan Fishman, APC, CRC is a veteran freelance writer with more than 25 years of experience in health education. She is also an Associate Professional Counselor and Clinical Rehabilitation Counselor, adding mental health and wellness to her area of expertise.

You can follow Susan’s work at http://www.writingbyfishman.com/ or https://twitter.com/@fishmanwriting on Twitter.
  1. Nutrition Tips for Someone with COPD. COPD Foundation’s Slim Skinny Reference Guide. COPD Foundation. https://www.copdfoundation.org/Learn-More/For-Patients-Caregivers/Healthy-Living.aspx
  2. Nutritional Guidelines for People with COPD. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/nutritional-guidelines-for-people-with-copd
  3. Nutrition. American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/living-with-copd/nutrition.html
  4. The Importance of Good Nutrition for Chronic Lung Condition Patients. National Emphysema Foundation. http://www.emphysemafoundation.org/index.php/component/content/article/91-nutrition-articles/198-the...
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Last Review Date: 2021 Oct 7
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